Hearings in the trial of former Byron Bay police officer Michial Luke Greenhalgh, 39, for alleged assault have been delayed part-way through.
The trial of Senior Constable Greenhalgh for allegedly assaulting a naked 16-year-old boy in Byron Bay’s Lateen Lane nearly three years ago was scheduled to take four days in Lismore’s courthouse this week.
But after hearing from ten witnesses, including the alleged victim and his mother, and accepting two written statements as evidence from other witnesses, Magistrate Michael Dakin has scheduled the trial to resume on February 23rd next year.
CCTV footage from Byron police station shown
Thursday’s hearings were delayed while the magistrate considered whether or not to allow CCTV footage taken after the alleged assault to be used as evidence.
The defence had unsuccessfully argued the footage, captured on police cameras inside and directly outside the station later in the morning after the violent scene in Lateen Lane, was irrelevant.
Defence barrister Brent Haverfield also pointed out the footage hadn’t so far been mentioned in questioning of the witnesses, including that of two officers working with Sen-Constable Greenhalgh at the time.
Mr Haverfield said if the footage was allowed as evidence, he would probably need to cross-examine those witnesses again.
But the Department of Public Prosecutions said the footage was taken a mere minute or two after the boy had been put in the back of a police paddy-wagon in Lateen Lane, a few streets away from Byron Bay police station.
Prosecutor Brittany Parker said seeing the footage would help give context to the boy’s ‘demeanour’ throughout the entirety of his interaction with police.
Judge Dakin agreed, acknowledging officers interviewed had variously described the alleged victim as uncooperative, uncompliant and uncommunicative.
‘It will be demonstrative one or the other,’ Judge Dakin said of the footage.
Northern Rivers paramedic ‘can’t recall’ sedating naked male at Byron Bay police station
At one point in the footage, five of six officers present in the station in the pre-dawn hours of January 11, 2018, can be seen holding the naked and hand-cuffed youth down while a paramedic first removes taser prongs and then sedates him.
Sen-Constable Greenhalgh has a beard in the footage, since shaven off.
The alleged victim has described an officer with a beard hitting him repeatedly with a baton and calling him a ‘wog cunt’.
Sergeant Christopher Neaves was in charge of Byron Bay police station at the time and says he didn’t think the boy responded to the pain of having a taser barb removed.
Shortly after the boy was sedated, the footage shows officers carrying him to an ambulance, where a waiting ambulance officer with the appearance of an older man covers him with a sheet once he is placed on a bed.
Paramedic Benjamin Lally was on-scene, having removed the taser and sedated the boy, but giving evidence this week said he didn’t recall anything much about the job.
Witness statements in criminal trial different from LECC inquiry
As has happened with most witnesses in the trial, Mr Lally’s testimony differed from statements earlier given to a police watchdog inquiry.
He said he remembered the boy was naked but couldn’t remember the handcuffs.
He said he remembered telling the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) the boy told him he’d taken acid but couldn’t remember anything else the boy had said or done, nor anyone else.
‘It’s three years ago, I don’t really recall,’ he told the prosecutor, before acknowledging he had read the transcripts from the LECC inquiry shortly before giving evidence in Sen-Constable Greenhalgh’s criminal trial.
But he did remember putting the boy in ‘hamstrings’ in the back of the ambulance, which meant all four of the alleged victim’s limbs were constrained.
Paramedic reported alleged assault victim as ‘combative’ on the way to hospital
It was 4.15 AM by the time Mr Lally, his co-worker and the boy arrived at The Tweed Hospital and Mr Lally’s report from the journey shows the boy was ‘combative’ en route, the court heard.
Earlier, during cross-examination, Mr Lally had agreed with the defence that a possible reason for failing to take a patient’s blood pressure upon arrival at a call-out is if the patient is highly agitated or aggressive.
Defence barrister Mr Haverfield suggested ‘if they’re thrashing around, it’d be impossible’ to which Mr Lally replied ‘sorry, I don’t recall’.
He agreed he’d given the alleged victim one sedative dose as opposed to any extra, which are allowed to be given if the paramedic deems necessary.
Mr Lally had told the LECC inquiry the boy ‘leapt over the cell door and it took four officers to hold him down’.
But after seeing the CCTV footage in this week’s trial, where no leaping can be seen, Mr Lally told the defence he didn’t recall the leap.
Police defence now says LECC statement ‘truthful’
On Wednesday the defence barrister had described the LECC inquiry as having ‘cajoled’ witnesses into ‘giving answers’.
But on Thursday, during cross-examination of the paramedic mostly saying he couldn’t recall the Byron Bay incident nearly three years ago, Mr Haverfield said Mr Lally’s LECC statement ‘would be a truthful account’.
It was given ‘closer to the time’ of the incident, Mr Haverfield said.
Police training focused on guns, not batons
Later, on what was supposed to be the last day of the trial, the court heard from Sergeant William Watts, who instructs police in the use of force.
Sergeant Watts and the prosecutor went through a police guidebook on batons and how police must use them, section by section.
Sergeant Watts echoed what previous officers had said concerning how often police are refreshed in the use of force: once a year.
But he explained there were many types of use of force and that from 2015 to 2018, refresher training had focussed on the use of firearms.
Sen-Constable Greenhalgh is accused of using unreasonable force during a final six baton strikes to a naked and unarmed, but according to police, seemingly ‘drug affected’ youth, in Byron’s CBD in January 2018.
The trial is scheduled to continue from February 23 2021 in Lismore Local Court.